King County debuts app allowing residents to easily report noxious weeds to environmental specialists

King County debuted a new mobile app feature this week that makes it easy for residents to submit a photo and the precise location of noxious weeds to a team of county specialists who will quickly respond anywhere in the region.

The new feature – developed with Microsoft and Slalom Consulting – sends the photo and location to a team of specialists who will determine if it is a noxious weed that needs to be eradicated and what action to take. The team will coordinate other county employees and partners to remove the noxious weeds, typically within a few days after receiving the tip.

“I am excited to see King County continue utilizing innovative technology by launching this noxious weeds smartphone app. This app makes it possible for residents to identify and report noxious weeds to the County from wherever they may be,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

According to a news release, the King County Connect app does not require users to sign in or enter a password. It features a library of photos and weed descriptions to help users identify the plant. If a user is unable to identify the plant, one of King County’s specialists will personally respond to help. 

King County prioritizes new invasive species and poisonous weeds – particularly giant hogweed, tansy ragwort, poison-hemlock, and garlic mustard – that pose the greatest threat to people, wildlife, and habitat. Noxious weeds can degrade forests, trails, and recreation areas and can alter the region’s ecosystem. They also can have a significant impact on agriculture, resulting in smaller crops and higher production costs.

North Bend resident and Slalom Consulting Sr. Marketing Manager, Emily Lukken, said if the top 23 invasive species were not managed for a single year, damages to Washington state’s environment could reach $1.3 billion dollars.

The idea for the noxious weed locator emerged last year during a hack-a-thon where King County IT employees brainstormed with representatives from Microsoft and Slalom to make it easier for residents to connect residents with local government. The noxious weed reporting function is the first of what will be several features of the King County Connect app. 

King County’s Noxious Weed Control Program includes 17 specialists who have biology or environmental science degrees. They monitor noxious weeds in all areas of the county – in both cities and in unincorporated communities – to ensure that high-priority, state-regulated noxious weeds are controlled before they spread. 

Over the past 20 years, King County has detected 17,780 infestations of regulated noxious weeds, covering 1,460 acres. About 20 percent of those infestations have been on county-managed lands and roads with the remaining 80 percent found on private, city, state, and federal properties. To date, 45 percent of all infestations found have been eradicated, and 79 percent of the infested areas have been cleared of noxious weeds.

The County will significantly increase the control of invasive weeds on lands that are protected under the Land Conservation Initiative launched in 2018.

Residents already can notify King County when they identify a potential noxious weed. Having a mobile app that identifies the precise location and makes it easier to identify the plant makes the county’s response more efficient and effective. 

How to use the app to report a noxious weed:

  • Download the King County Connect app from Google Play or the Apple App store
  • Select the ‘Report Noxious Weeds’ button
  • Take a photo of the plant and submit it along with the type of plant, a brief description, including the date, and location
  • A photo gallery and weed description can help you identify the plant
  • If you would like help determining what type of plant you are reporting, a member of King County’s Noxious Weed Program will respond

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